Sept. 1, 2004 - For the first time in the history of New York State, independent voters will be able to vote in a primary election this year. On September 14th, almost 10,000 independent voters - those registered voters who are not enrolled in any party - who reside in Staten Island's 61st Assembly District will get to participate in choosing the Independence Party's candidate for State Assembly.

In a decision released on August 31, Judge Jed S. Rakoff of the federal District Court for the Southern District of New York, upheld the right of county political organizations to allow voters from outside their own party to vote in their primaries if they so choose.

Judge Rakoff ruled similarly last year in a case involving statewide primaries, when the Independence Party decided to allow "unenrolled" voters to participate in any possible primaries for statewide office. As it turns out, there will not be a primary for U.S. Senator, the only statewide office to be filled this year, but the decision affirming the right of political parties to control their destinies without interference from the state is a milestone in New York's political history.

The Independence Party of Staten Island sought to expand that right to local primaries by passing a resolution that was sent to the New York City Board of Elections last May. The Board objected because the party's action was not in the form of a rule, necessitating the further ruling in favor of freedom of association of political parties and voters by Judge Rakoff.

The two candidates facing off in the Independence Party primary on September 14th are long-time community activist and Independence Party member Rev. John Johnson, a former emergency medical technician, and reform Democrat Charles F. McLean, Jr., a fire dispatcher who is simultaneously running as an insurgent in the Democratic Party primary.

Independent voters in the 61st Assembly District should go to their normal polling places on September 14th, as shown on the notices mailed by the Board of Elections, and simply tell the poll workers that they wish to vote in the Independence Party primary. Anyone unsure of where to vote can call 1-866-VOTE-NYC. The 61st District covers most of Staten Island's North Shore.


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